…the last watch…

Psalm 130:6
I long for the Lord
more than sentries long for the dawn,
yes, more than sentries long for the dawn.

So many combat veterans have stories congruent with the picture the Psalmist paints here. So many weary warriors down through the centuries, gun, knife, or sword in hand, pacing the perimeter of the camp, only the starlight to guide their steps, have experienced the labor of waiting out the sunrise. The last watch of the night, when the darkness gathers all of its forces to give one final defense against the dawn, is the coldest and darkest shift anyone can draw. Just beyond the limited view of a lantern or flashlight there is only mystery, at times terrifying mystery. Unseen enemies wait just outside of the light’s reach. Nature’s aggressive warrior animals, who know no such thing as allies, creep silently, making just enough occassional noise to ensure the watchmen doesn’t forget that armies and soldiers aren’t the only thing to worry about.

In those waning moments of the night, with all of these emotions and fears and troubles and insecurties we find the watchman. Like a mother who’s reached the height of labor before the baby’s crowning the watchman is willing the Sun to rise, he is pushing with all of his soul, desperate for the first rays of orange to shoot over the distant hills and with authority and gusto and robust ferocity to chase away all of the cowards of night, the enemies that have relentlessly tormented the sentry.

In dark moments of the soul, when temptation has gotten the better of us, when tragedy has washed over our lives, when despair from any number of outlets has rushed in on us, in those moments we long for the Lord. We plead with an empty room to become a sanctuary, for a dark moment to be shot through with Light, for a guilty, hollow heart to be injected with the liquid love and assurance of the Father.

Certainly we can see the obvious connection that this Psalm has with the story of our faith. Both the darkness of all history and of the preceding three days had gathered as thick as it could to put up a last stand against the greatest dawn of all. And how many millions of sentries and watchmen had been waiting desperately, and some of us were waiting even after it for the moment when we would truly “see” it, for some kind of relief from the pitch blackness of life. And on the morning we call Easter, for the first time, the night watch ended as the first rays of grace and mercy and victory shot out over the distant hills of doubt, despair, and death.

We do well in our lives to continue longing after Him like sentries after the dawn. We do well to pursue Him daily, searching for sunrises in the dark places that remain in our hearts, until every crevice has been illuminated by the dawn of Jesus Christ, and every enemy vanquished by the power of His love, and every fear extinguished by the bloody cross and empty tomb.

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